Sometime in 2018 – can’t remember when exactly, but I know it was cold – I went to Barlok for what would end up being one of my last visits to that legendary berth of decadence. It must have been a weeknight, and it must have been early (meaning before midnight), since the only other souls around were a couple of weathered regulars and the people that were going to play that night. The bill included the revered Japanese guitarist Junzo Suzuki and a mysterious outfit named Fuji. I surmised from the scant Facebook event info that some folks I knew played in it, that they were touring around several cornerstone DIY venues in Belgium, and that was about it. In the end, it was best for me to know as little as possible about what would end up being one of my favorite shows that year. The cosmic encounter of Warre Fungus, Bart Sloow, Louis Frères, Mik Quantius (!) and Suzuki himself (!!) swept us few lucky souls that found ourselves there that night up into blissfully raw spaced-out jam territory. Free-flowing kraut meets offbeat jazz interludes, building up to an overdrive of energy and sick grooves not unlike Psychedelic Speed Freaks and their ilk. Another KRAAK Festival without them would’ve been a loss. Psychedelic space jams may not always be in vogue, but the good stuff always finds its way back into the backbone of every head that has ever loved the power of pure, honest rock ‘n roll.
How did you guys get together originally?
Well, Bart (guitar) and I (drums) liked to jam with each other in previous bands such as Jüfro (with Ernesto Gonzalez and Tomas Dittborn) and some other improvisational one-night-stand bands. After a while we added a bass player in a new pact. That was Simon Beeckaert at first, and then it was Louis Frères. That’s Fuji.
It’s my understanding that Junzo and Mik are in reality guests of Fuji. How did this collusion of underground veterans come to be?
I asked Bart to ask Mik Quantius if he was interested in joining a tour of Fuji, and so after Bart mailed Mik a recording of ours he said yes. It was the same with Junzo Suzuki. Of course we already knew each other for some years since we are all swirling around in the same circuits - Bart through his label and me through setting up shows for some years in Antwerp with Audio Plant & Bar-à-bas I & II.
Yes, Bart asked me and I said yes without even listening to the recordings.
I remember when I worked on my solo European tour, Warre sent me music of their jams, and I loved it. I joined them when I played a solo show at Audio Plant later that year.
I don’t see Mik and Junzo as guests but as part of the band. For me it’s more fun to have an extra guitar player and someone doing vocals and other crazy stuff.
On the subject of guests: when I saw you guys at Barlok in 2018 Bram Borloo (from R.O.T) was also playing. Do you guys seek a specific dynamic through your invitation of guests or is it more of a “see what happens” kind of approach? Any other people you’d like to invite onstage or in the studio?
I guess it ‘s more a “see what happens” spirit on my behalf. I can make up a list of a lot of artists that would be nice to see them adding some juice at a performance from Fuji. How the rest of the band feels is a matter of who/what /when and the quantity of it in each segment. If it feels alright, then just do it. One of the artists I would have loved bringing into Fuji would’ve been Charlie Nothing (if he was still alive ~ RIP), but also Eva Van Deuren, Laurent Cartuyvels, Asa Irons, Ernesto Gonzalez, Siet Rae, Tomas Dittborn, ...
It’s so shit that Barlok is closed, that place was so good for music!
So sad about it. Actually just the day before my gig was booked, too!
What are the starting points of your jams? Is it full-blown improvisations or are there definite cues you all follow?
There are no cues at all, it’s just start and stop. I don’t even know what I will be doing until it starts. There is also no communication between us about who plays what or anything of the sort. Everyone does his/her thing and we see each other in the end somewhere. I am just transmitting and processing what comes running through me and trying not to lose my drumsticks.
Being in the moment with the ear.
We seem to be at a point where psych/jam bands are becoming a sort of rarity in a hyper digitalized world, at least in the European “underground”. What makes you want to continue playing this kind of music? What kind of energy do you get from it?
It only comes out in recordings ‘cause we happen to record our shows and hopefully can release them on vinyl. You get a nice energy to perform as a band and have no strings attached of what you wanna do with your instrument/stuff. It sets you free.
I like to live it and its healthiness!
Life is analog, people have been doing this since prehistoric times. Helps to keep me sane.
Seems that we don’t fit into this kind of MODERN WORLD.
At the moment, there’s not a whole lot to listen to by Fuji. Any releases in the pipeline? If so, how is the experience of recording different from playing live in this instance?
I would love a Barlok uncut release.
Well, we have still a 2018 Live at Barlok recording that is waiting to be released with Mik and Junzo [Editor's note: a Fuji In Brussels CD is now available with the Barlok recordings]. About recording itself, it’s a bit like Les Rallizes Dénudés where not much was recorded in studios or at home; most of their recordings are from live shows. I am personally a fan of that. We also all have pretty fully booked agendas and long distance flights that makes the logistics of it pretty intense.
Since we don’t work with overdubs and all it doesn’t really matter if it’s live recorded or in the studio.
I love to work with overdubs normally, but thought the best shape for this recording will be released just as it is. Will see the light for the festival.
What happens after KRAAK Fest for you all? Siesta, road trip, other projects and adventures?
I will release now 50 tapes on famousnbroke, go on a Japanese tour with Junzo and his friend in April, and also during July with Lori Goldston in Europe.
Yes, me and Mitsuru Tabata (ex Zeni Geva/Acid Mother’s Temple) will do a coast to coast tour of Japan (18 shows!) as 20 Guilders along with Mik in April. And 20 Guilders will be touring Australia in late August as well as Europe in November to promote our new album. My other unit called Miminokoto will release a new LP/Cassette, and a new duo LP with Tetuzi Akiyama will be released around this summer. And of course, my solo albums are ready.
If all goes well, Fuji will play a few more shows around Belgium. I have some other projects like High Musth, which is also an improvisational band that only plays under a rising full moon. Also a noise project called Long Time No Sea where I swim into a crate of metal junk. I also run De Audio Plant in Antwerp where once in a while I set up some shows and try to record them. And tons of other things. By the way, the recording of Jüfro is also still waiting to be released from the Echnum era! Life is very versatile and you never know where we’ll be running tomorrow. All is temporary and so rare we. Anyway, it would be Amay-O-Naizing to see everybody back at KRAAK festival this year. It seems the lineup is pretty noise.